• Kyodo

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Major Japanese breweries Suntory Holdings Ltd. and Asahi Breweries Ltd. reached a court settlement Wednesday over Suntory’s claim that its rival infringed on its patent for nonalcoholic beer. The deal means both can continue making and marketing their respective beverages.

Under the settlement reached at the Intellectual Property High Court, Suntory will drop the case and Asahi will withdraw its call for the Japan Patent Office to invalidate Suntory’s patent on nonalcoholic beverages with a beer taste, both companies said.

Suntory’s All-Free and Asahi’s Dry Zero are competing for the top share in Japan’s nonalcoholic beer market. The two companies agreed to no longer fight for the patent right and to continue production of their nonalcoholic beer products.

In the suit, Suntory had demanded that Asahi halt making and marketing its product.

Suntory applied for a patent on its nonalcoholic beer in May 2013 and had it registered five months later, and claimed that Asahi’s Dry Zero, revamped in September the same year, infringes on its patent concerning extraction and sugar contents.

Suntory lost a patent dispute in a lower court last October, with the Tokyo District Court ruling that the Suntory patent represents a technology that can be easily invented by others in the industry and should be considered invalid. Suntory appealed the ruling to the high court.

“We are fully satisfied with the settlement,” said Yoshinori Ito, Asahi’s research and development division chief. “We will continue to produce and sell Dry Zero as before, without any restrictions.”

Suntory issued a statement saying the company had decided not to engage in an unnecessary dispute.

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